The Texas House today passed its major bail reform bill, HB 20 by Chairman Andrew Murr. The bill is known as the Damon Allen Act in honor of the DPS trooper who was murdered by a criminal who was out on bail and had a history of violence.
The bill takes on several key reform issues, including adding transparency to the bail-setting process, creating a statewide framework for training and statutory guidelines, and ensuring accountability in the process to keep violent criminals off our streets. Below are some of the details contained in key provisions of the bill:
DENIAL OF BAIL FOR SOME OFFENSES: Under the bill, a person accused of committing a violent crime (i.e. violent or sexual offenses, murder) may be denied bail. HB 20 would allow bail denials in reasonable, justifiable circumstances. Other considerations for bail denial include the safety of the public, victim, and law enforcement and the defendant's appearance in court.
DEVELOPMENT AND USE OF PUBLIC SAFETY ASSESSMENT: HB 20 would improve bail decisions by giving magistrates more information about those accused of crimes, including a full criminal history and other vital background information.
TRAINING & QUALIFICATION: HB 20 would address concerns that the current system unfairly keeps some non-dangerous defendants with limited financial means in jail pretrial. HB 20 directs judges and magistrates to:
impose the least restrictive conditions and the minimum amount of bail,
ensure court appearance, and
protect public safety.
CREATES STATUTORY RULES FOR SETTING BAIL: When combining the public safety assessment tool and new statutory guidelines for setting bail, HB 20 will create a fair process for assessing bail decisions.
The bill now heads to the Texas Senate to continue through the legislative process.